My grandfather could never fall asleep, but he was always waking up. When he was fighting in the war, he was buried alive for three days. He was trapped under dirt, hearing his friends die around him, shrapnel stuck in his chest and worms curling against his skin. After he was rescued, the military gave him the purple heart. He decided he wanted to be cremated. He didn’t want the worms to crawl under his skin. He didn’t want to be trapped. He didn’t want to become dirt. He didn’t want to forever dream about the weight of the earth crushing and suffocating him until he woke up gasping. My grandfather could never get the dirt off his skin.

He said to me, “Can you hear that?”

Hear what?

“The tapping.”

I can’t hear anything, Grandpa.

“It’s muffled, but it’s there.”

What is?

“They’re hitting their helmets with sticks,” he said. “Do you know how to dig?”

I want to be cremated and spread in the ocean so one day I can come crashing back to earth as rain and wash him clean.

Photo By: Jeff Mitton